In This Issue

September 14, 2007

NEWS

Global
• Discovery Promises More Nutritional Cassava 
• Agriculture in the Face of Climate Change 

Africa
• Setting a Biotechnology Stage in Africa 
• ICGEB-Africa Formally Opened 
• Regional Consultation on Biotechnology and Biosafety 

Americas
• UD Leads Research Project on Rice Epigenetics 
• Sorghum Fit for Fuel and Feed 
• New HTF Ethanol Hybrids from Pioneer 
• Monsanto Acquires Brazilian Seed Company 
• Biotechnologists Inducted into ARS Hall of Fame 
• Texas A&M Receives Sun Grant Funding for Bioenergy Research 
• Maximizing the Biofuel Potential of Sweet Sorghum and Sugar Cane 
• Bayer Opens First Agricultural Technology Center in Argentina 

Asia and the Pacific
• RP to Boost Production of Agri-Products through Biotech 
• Invitation to Comment on a Risk Assessment Plan for GM Cotton 
• Scottish Seed Potatoes' Journey to China 
• New Zealand's ERMA Approves GM Onion Trial 

Europe
• Intragenic Modification for Crops 
• German Gene-tech Law - Coalition Compromise 

Research
• GM Potatoes with Improved Freezing Tolerance 
• Genome Analysis of a Plant Growth-Promoting Bacillus 
• Production of Herbicide-Resistant Transgenic Sweet Potato 

Announcements
• EU-Malaysia Biotechnology Business Partnership (EUM-BIO 2007) 
• 13th European Congress on Biotechnology 
• Third International Conference on Coexistence GMCC07 

From the BICs
• Field Visit to the Elite Egyptian Bt Cotton Varieties Organized 

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News

Global

Scientists from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) have developed a new variety of cassava that might be more nutritious and easier to digest than other varieties. Cassava is the staple food for millions of poverty stricken people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and parts of Asia. Cassava roots, similar to potatoes, are often eaten boiled or deep-fried. It is also used to make flour, tapioca and a wide range of other products. The root is rich in carbohydrates and starch, but low in protein and vitamins. Compared to other starchy crops, cassava contains relatively higher levels of amylose, which render it difficult to digest.  

Hernan Ceballos and his colleagues from CIAT identified a new cassava variety with significantly reduced amylose content. Compared to traditional hard-to-digest cassava varieties with 17 to 25 percent amylose content, the mutant contains an average of only 3.4 percent. The scientists found no reduction in its starch content; therefore it can provide more carbohydrates compared to traditional varieties.

This is the first report of a natural mutation in cassava that resulted to drastic reduction on  amylose content in root starch. Aside from being  more nutritious and easily digestible, the new variety may also be suited for bioethanol production.

Read the complete paper at http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/sample.cgi/jafcau/2007/55/i18/pdf/jf070633y.pdf  or contact Herman Ceballos at h.ceballos@cgiar.org.

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Agriculture is a double edged sword when it comes to climate change. About 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the livestock sector, and 18 percent of carbon dioxide emissions results from clearing forested areas for agriculture. Aside from these, rice production is perhaps the main source of anthropogenic methane. And yet, adverse and extreme weather conditions can jeopardize rice crop production, which feeds more than half the world’s population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), introducing improved livestock management and crop practices, coupled with adaptive management of forests, could have a very significant impact on climate change. Adopting land use practices such as conservation agriculture would help to maintain significant amounts of carbon in the soil.

But these are not enough to ensure global food security in the future. While continuing to deal with the causes of climate change -- by reducing emissions and increasing greenhouse gas sinks -- it is crucial to also take immediate action to cope with its effects, said Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director General. Ways must be found to build up peoples’ resilience as well as that of food production systems, he added.

Read the complete article at http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2007/1000654/index.html.

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Africa

Africa has started to embrace biotechnology with South Africa becoming the first to commercialize Bt white corn for human consumption. Research and development activities in South Africa are also geared towards the improvement of various vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes, and trees. Nine other countries have already started conducting field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops, and 19 countries are engaged in research and development on the staple crops such as sorghum, cowpeas, cassava, banana, sweet potato, millet and other crops.

These initiatives can be regarded as an offshoot of the recognition by the African Union that biotechnology has a key role in developing African agriculture and reducing poverty. The African Union Ministers of Agriculture endorsed the development of the African Seed and Biotechnology Program to enhance seed trade and to harmonize trade between member states. Public and private sector research partnerships were also forged including the ones with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Harvest Plus Inc., the government of Canada, and DuPont. Research and manpower capabilities will be funded so that African scientists can conduct and promote bioscience research on production of stress-tolerant, disease-resistant, and nutritionally enhanced strains of crops.

More on this news article at http://whybiotech.ca/canada-english.asp?id=5981.

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The Cape Town Component of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) was officially opened by President Thabo Mbeki. The centre, situated in Cape Town's GrootesSchuur Hospital, will boost biotechnology research and development in Africa. An ICGEB press release states that research and training activities will be on subjects which are of major impact for the African continent, focusing primarily on infectious diseases (HIV-AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis), chronic (cardiovascular and cancer-related) and genetic diseases. Plant biotechnology research will be aimed at improving the staple crops essential for the African population. This ICGEB center will operate within the same framework as the Trieste and New Delhi Components, where research programs  at the forefront of scientific excellence constitutes the basis of the training programmes in the organization 

The Government of South Africa supported the establishment of this new component which offers provisional laboratory space and around 4,000 square meters of multipurpose areas for 100 scientists. It is hoped that this facility will be the source of important scientific breakthroughs in the fields of health, nutrition, agricultural improvement and environmental protection in Africa.

The press release can be viewed at:  http://www.info.gov.za/speeches/2007/07091016451001.htm.

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The Regional Consultation on Biotechnology and Biosafety for Agriculture and Environment in the West Asia and North Africa Sub-region was held in the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aleppo, Syria. The workshop was organized to develop, through a participatory approach, a proposal for an integrated regional framework on biotechnology and biosafety involving many stakeholders. Representatives and scientists from ministers of agriculture and of the environment of 16 countries, and three international organizations participated in the workshop.

The Director General of ICARDA Dr. Mahmoud Solh emphasized in his opening remarks the potentials of biotechnology in meeting the increasing food demand in developing countries in a sustainable way. Its use must be nutritionally and environmentally safe, he said. Representatives of co-sponsoring organizations, the Food and Agriculture Organization's Dr. Kakoli Ghoh and Dr. Fe Chon Chong of the United Nations Energy Programme/ Global Environment Facility UNEP/ GEF, also expressed their views and expectations of the workshop. The workshop concluded with the participants' unanimous agreement to form a follow-up committee composed of all stakeholders. This committee will be tasked to develop a regional project for GEF’s consideration to enhance capacity in biotechnology and biosafety as well as to harmonize biosafety regulations across West Asia and North Africa.  

Details of the press release can be viewed at: http://www.icarda.cgiar.org/News/2007/12Sep07/12Sep07.htm.

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Americas

Using a new technology that can decode 50 million sequences equivalent to over a billion bases of DNA in just one fell swoop, scientists from the University of Delaware (UD) are working on a project to advance the understanding of the rice epigenome- a series of biochemical modifications of the DNA that can either silence or turn on gene expression. The four year project, supported by a $5.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, may lead to the development of rice strains capable of withstanding adverse conditions as well as shed light on similar mechanisms in corn and other important cereal grains that are closely related to rice.  

The project will be headed by Blake Meyers, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, and will include rice biologists, computer scientists and plant pathologists from the US Department of Agriculture, University of California and Ohio State University.

“Epigenetics refers to a heritable change that is not a result of a change in DNA sequence, but rather a chemical modification of nucleotides in the DNA or its associated proteins,” Meyers said. “That means that these changes can be reversible, and it's easier to switch them on or off. Small RNAs are one of the key 'control switches,' directing these modifications,” Meyers noted.

Read more at  http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2008/sep/rice091007.html.

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Lignin is like a "cellular glue" that imparts rigidity and strength to plant tissues. It helps plants fend off attacking insects and pathogens. Alas, lignin also makes animal feed difficult to digest, and if the plant is a biofuel crop, it results in lower ethanol production. Scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and collaborators in universities have developed new, low-lignin sorghum germplasm lines to bolster the grain crop's value as both a livestock feed and ethanol resource.

Atlas bmr-12, one of 20 low-lignin lines the ARS team developed and tested in collaboration with University of Nebraska-Lincoln scientists scored higher on fiber digestibility than standard sorghum. This should result in higher milk production and higher beef gains when Atlas bmr-12 is fed to cattle. On the fuel front, the line's high fiber digestibility could also mean improved sorghum-to-ethanol conversion at processing plants. In addition, Atlas bmr-12 and another line, bmr-6, showed greater resistance to the Fusarium moniliforme fungus than a control group of standard sorghum. Atlas bmr-12 and bmr-6 owe their unique balance of fiber digestibility and disease resistance to two genes for the brown midrib trait.

The news article is available at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070910.htm..

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Pioneer Hi-Bred has released 21new Pioneer(R) brand High Total Fermentable (HTF) ethanol hybrids for 2008 planting. These hybrids deliver higher levels of fermentable starch, resulting in higher ethanol output. In addition, many Pioneer HTF ethanol hybrids contain the Herculex(R) I or Herculex XTRA insect protection traits which reduce insect damage to grain and prevent molds and mycotoxins.

The Pioneer HTF hybrid screening program has shown that some hybrids are clearly superior in the amount of ethanol produced per bushel of grain. Identifying hybrids with the highest ethanol potential and developing new hybrids with desirable grain traits for dry-grind ethanol production is essential in the biofuels industry.

Read the complete article at http://www.pioneer.com/web/site/portal/menuitem.450aab5b3822ec0ea6522972d10093a0/.

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Monsanto Company announced that it will continue to enhance its global corn germplasm portfolio with the acquisition of Agroeste Sementes, a Brazilian corn seed company that focuses on hybrid corn seed production and serves farmers throughout Brazil, the world's third largest corn-producing country. Under the terms of the agreement, the company acquired ownership of 100 percent of Agroeste's businesses including its corn seed brands. Agroeste's corn seed products are currently used in approximately 10 percent of Brazil corn areas. Monsanto's corn seed products on the other hand are sold locally through the DEKALB and Agroceres seed brands which are currently used in approximately 30 percent of corn areas in Brazil.  

"Agroeste will serve as an important complement to our existing national brand approach in Brazil," said Brett Begemann, Monsanto's Executive Vice President for Global Commercial. "The acquisition will allow our companies to provide new and innovative higher yielding seed offerings through multiple brands and will bolster our genetics platform for the introduction of our trait technologies longer term." Monsanto also noted that the combination of  the  germplasm portfolios of the two companies is expected to support the introduction of biotech trait offerings in Brazil.

Read the press release at http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=525.

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The US Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Science Hall of Fame program recognizes three noted scientists for their decades of discoveries in the field of biotechnology. This year's recipients are Drs. Dennis Gonzalves, Johnie N. Jenkins and Janet C. King, all previously employed in ARS. Dr. Gonsalves led a team that  developed papaya ringspot virus resistant papaya using the modern biotechnology tools. The technology and his leadership helped saved the Hawaii papaya industry. Dr. Jenkins was responsible for one of the first field testing of transgenic cotton resistant to tobacco budworms and cotton bollworms. Dr. Jenkins also has made important discoveries on the chemical interactions between cotton plants and pests in the USA, and  was instrumental in training graduate students in cotton research. Dr. King on the other hand, is an international leader in  nutrition policy committees, serving in many advisory boards, notably the one that developed the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 

The  ARS Science Hall of Fame program, established in 1986 recognizes agency researchers for outstanding career achievements in agricultural sciences. Candidates should be retired or eligible to retire during the time of award.

View press release at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2007/070912.htm.

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Bioenergy research initiatives at Texas A&M will be funded by the Sun Grant Initiative, a US national program established to create new solutions for future U.S. Energy needs. "This funding will greatly enhance several core research efforts related to bioenergy as we seek science-based solutions to alternative energy for Texas and beyond," said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences for The Texas A&M University System. "These grants demonstrate the depth of our bioenergy research programs and our commitment to leveraging agriculture to help solve our country's energy needs."

Bioenergy researches in the University  and its other research and extension arms will focus on the efficient use of sweet sorghum in bioethanol production, the nutritional and feeding of ethanol by-products from animal production, and tapping other sources of energy such as biomass from switch grass and animal waste.

View press release at http://agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/AGPR/Sep1107a.htm.

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Dr. Lee Tarpley, plant physiologist in Texas A&M University in Beaumont, and College Station colleague, Dr. Don Vietor, professor of crop physiology, are focusing their research on sweet sorghum as a potential source of bioethanol. Although sweet sorghum and sugar cane are close relatives, they exhibit different mechanisms in reusing stored sugar. Through the tracer technology, labeled sucrose is introduced in sweet sorghum plants, and researchers are able to track the subsequent movement and distribution of the sucrose molecules.

Sweet sorghum appears to be more efficient in reusing the stored sugar to support growth of other parts of the plant. The mechanisms in sugarcane, however, allow it to accumulate very high levels of sucrose. "The differences are critical, and need to be understood for breeders to develop new varieties specifically for the biofuel industry," Tarpley said. Sweet sorghum and sugarcane are both well suited for this purpose.

Check-out the news article at: http://agnews.tamu.edu/dailynews/stories/FUEL/Sep1107a.htm. The study results were published in the June 2007 issue of BMC Plant Biology (http://www.biomedcentral.com).

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Representatives of Bayer CropSciences inducted their first agricultural technology center in Buenos Aires. The center, the third for South America after Colombia and Brazil, will be the testing site for Bayer’s new active ingredients in local crops, which will be optimized later for Argentine agricultural conditions. In its first year of operation, the center will assess product efficacy and the impact of various stresses like drought, salinity and solar radiation on growth and yields on various crops.

During the inauguration ceremony, Pascal Cassecuelle, Head of Bayer CropScience La Plata Region, said: “We want to work close to the Argentine farmers. This implies knowing their needs and developing customized, sustainable products which meet their requirements. The new center is a fundamental step in expanding these activities; this innovation serves our customers' needs.”

Read the press release at http://www.bayercropscience.com/bayer/cropscience/cscms.nsf/id/EN_2007-NST-048?Open&ccm=400030000&L=EN&markedcolor.

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Asia and the Pacific

The Philippine Department of Agriculture, through its Biotechnology Program Office (BPO), said that the government is reviving up research and development on several commodities while boosting production of non-traditional agricultural products through biotechnology. Research and development programs, which include the propagation of superior rice varieties, genetically improved papaya, abaca and even yeast mixes that will improve the production and recovery of ethanol from sugarcane, sweet sorghum and sweet potato for biofuels, are currently being pursued by the department. The Agriculture Department is also set to work on high yielding and disease-resistant seaweed strains and coconut resistant to the leaf beetle, Brontispa longissima.  

Several biotech products are currently in the pipeline. The bacterial blight-resistant hybrid rice is expected to be released next year, and will be followed by the papaya ringspot virus-resistant papaya and the golden rice by 2010.  

Scientists are also conducting research to boost biotech applications in the integrated processing of coconut for plant growth hormones, functional drinks, virgin coconut oil (VCO) for cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications, biodiesel and recovery of ethanol from glycerin.

Read more at http://www.da.gov.ph/news_archive/2007/sep.html.

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The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator of Australia is currently assessing license application from Monsanto Australia Limited to intentionally release genetically modified (GM) Gossypium barbadense cotton (also known as Pima or extra long staple cotton) into the environment.  The application proposes the limited and controlled release of three insect resistant and/or herbicide tolerant GM cotton lines over a two year period (2007-2009). The trial would involve early stage research to breed and evaluate the agronomic performance of the GM cotton lines; produce seed for further trials (subject to additional approvals); and collect data for future regulatory requirements.

Comments on a risk assessment and risk management plan (RARMP) prepared by the Regulator for the proposed release are welcome. Submissions should be received by close of business on October 15, 2007.

For more information, contact ogtr@health.gov.au or visit http://www.ogtr.gov.au/rtf/ir/dir074notifcon.rtf.

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Scottish seed potato mini tubers will soon find their way to China. After many years of operating a universal ban on the importation of seed potatoes into the country, the Chinese government has given permission for the importation of Scottish seed potato mini tubers. "China, as the largest potato growing nation in the world, represents a major and much needed potential market for Scottish exporters. The news that our mini tuber producers have been approved gives encouragement that we can successfully conclude negotiations on a similar agreement with China for the export of field-grown seed potatoes", said Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. 

Officials said four companies met the requirements for propagation, packaging, storage, and transportation: GenTech Propagation (Dundee); ProSeed International (Borders); TLC Potatoes Ltd (Kincardineshire); and MBMG Scotland (Forfar).

Read the news release at http://www.scri.ac.uk/news/latest/scottishpotatoesforchina.

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New Zealand’s Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has approved the field trial of the Crop and Food Research’s onion modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, sold as Roundup. The approval was made following allegations that Crop and Food Research has breached biosecurity rules by importing GM onion seeds from the US.  

In a press release, ERMA cleared Crop and Food Research of the allegations following a thorough inspection and checking the relevant approvals. Dr. Libby Harrison, ERMA’s general manager, said "In November 2004 when the approval to import the GM onion seed was reviewed, ERMA found a very minor administrative error, that Crop and Food had used the wrong form. They corrected the error promptly." "The regulatory regime for genetically modified organisms in New Zealand is one of the most stringent in the world. Every step in the research process has been assessed and approved by the appropriate authorities," Dr. Harrison added.  

Read the press release at http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/news-events/archives/media-releases/2007/mr-20070910.html

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Europe

A new technology called intragenic modification is being utilized to remove lingering toxins and allergens in crops while enhancing the levels of health-promoting antioxidants. This technology, introduced in 2003 by Kaare M. Nielsen of the University of Tromsø, Norway  is a genetic engineering procedure that transforms plants with native genetic elements only.  Specific genetic elements from a plant are isolated, recombined  in vitro, and re-inserted into a plant that belongs to the same sexual compatibility group. This approach improves the agronomic performance or nutritional characteristics of crops but does not introduce traits that are new to the sexual compatibility group. Intragenic modification could also be applied to eliminate numerous allergens or toxins by silencing the associated genes. 

This genetic engineering approach can also be used to eliminate undesirable traits in one part of the plant and re-introduced for expression in another part of the plant where it is going to be useful. Thus, toxins meant to kill pests in the edible plant parts can be removed and be activated somewhere else. Enzymes for nutritional improvement on the other hand can be obtained from non-edible plant parts and moved to another part.

Details of the research article can be found at: http://www.isb.vt.edu/news/2007/news07.Sep.htm and published in Agric Food Chem 55, 4281-4288

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The existing German gene-tech law was meant to be remodeled last July during the discussion between the Coalition partners Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. The outcome represents "pretty much a status quo of the existing law with some marginal adjustments", the GAIN report stated. In summary, the report identified some agreement points as follows:

  • The rules for the field register remain untouched.
  • The distance requirement for biotech fields to conventional crops will be set at 150 meters.
  • The distance of biotech fields to organic fields will be set at 300 meters.
  • The German States have the option to implement stricter distance rules for biotech fields within neighboring nature reserve regions.  

Minister Seehofer defends the compromise as a balanced response to public concerns about biotechnology. In addition, he agreed to draft an amendment that would broaden the option that German food processors can label livestock products - stretching from milk, eggs, meat to processed products – as ‘without gene technology’ if the animals were not fed with biotech feeds, the report says. However, the use of feed additives and enzymes and medicine derived from biotechnology processes does not prevent putting the ‘without genetechnology’ label. The report said that Seehofer believes that "there is no need for growing biotech crops for food and feed purposes". He however supports breakthroughs of biotech crops for energy use.

The GAIN report can be accessed at:  http://www.fas.usda.gov/gainfiles/200707/146291854.pdf.

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Research

Potato, the fourth most important food crop, is being cultivated worldwide, especially in places with relatively cool climates like the Andean tropical highlands or countries in the northern temperate zone. Sadly, potatoes are frost sensitive species incapable of cold acclimation. A brief exposure to frost can significantly reduce yield, while hard frosts can completely destroy entire crops. Thus, improvement in potato's freezing tolerance of just a few degrees would be of considerable benefit.

Although genetic donors, particularly the cold-acclimatized wild potatoes of South America, exist, transfer of freezing tolerance to cultivated potatoes proved to be unsuccessful because of the complex genetics of the trait and the introduction of undesirable agronomic properties. By introducing the AtBCF genes for freeze tolerance from Arabidopsis with an activation control (promoter) solely for cold conditions, scientists successfully obtained several potato lines with increased freezing tolerance of up to -5 °C.

In addition, Tony Chen and colleagues, who authored the study, also found out that the attachment of the cold-inducible promoter minimize the expression of agronomically undesirable traits, like delayed flowering and retarded growth, previously attributed to the AtBCF genes. The use of the gene-promoter tandem in introducing freeze tolerance to other low temperature sensitive crops, is currently being studied.

Read the abstract at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00269.x. Subscribers to the Plant Biotechnology Journal can access the full paper at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00269.x.

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Bacillus amyloliquefaciens is a plant-associated bacterium that stimulates plant growth and produces secondary metabolites that suppress soil-borne plant pathogens. This bacterium, together with other rhizobacteria, is applied to a wide range of agricultural species to enhance growth, for example, by promoting seedling emergence, plant biomass and disease control. Little is known about the lifestyle and genetic make-up of this Bacillus. A new study published by the journal Nature Biotechnology reports the complete genome sequence of B. amyloliquefaciens and discusses the genes that may contribute to its plant associated life style.  

Genes responsible for signal proteins and compounds, detected by the plant during interaction, were identified. The authors also identified nine gene clusters coding for numerous antibiotics and biocontrol agents. Because of the relatively small size of B. amyloliquefaciens' genome, as well as its similarity to the well studied Bacillus subtilis, researchers are now considering the application of genetic manipulation to produce secondary metabolites for developing agrobiotechnological agents such as biopesticides and plant growth stimulator. The genome sequence will also be valuable in gaining insights on the complex plant-bacteria interactions.

Read the abstract at http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n9/abs/nbt1325.html or the complete paper at  http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n9/pdf/nbt1325.pdf.

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Sweet potato, grown in tropical and subtropical countries on approximately 10 million hectares, is the seventh most important food crop cultivated in the world. It is a low-input crop with a stable yield even under suboptimal growing conditions where important cereal food crops do not grow. This is because of its tolerance to drought, and ability to grow on infertile soils and limited inputs. Although traditional breeding methods prove to be effective in improving some agronomic properties of this crop, the absence of herbicide resistant germplasm necessitates the use of in vitro genetic manipulation to produce sweet potato varieties that are resistant to certain herbicides.

By introducing the bar gene from a yeast species through genetic modification, a group of Korean scientists obtained sweet potato lines resistant to the herbicide glufosinate. A critical concern about the use of bar gene is that it may be sexually transmitted to related crop species, resulting in the creation of herbicide-resistant ‘super weeds’. However, this concern is less critical for sweet potato, as this crop is asexually propagated in the field.

Subscribers can read the full paper published by the journal Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture at http://www.springerlink.com/content/x2m428080404435l/fulltext.pdf or read the abstract at http://www.springerlink.com/content/x2m428080404435l/?p=589b324f65d540b2ad192486fd3008db&pi=6.

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Announcements

The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) in collaboration with two EU Partners, European Association for Bio-industries (EUROPABIO), Belgium and Association for the BioPharmaceutical Industry (BioFarmind), The Netherlands will host the first EU-Malaysia Biotechnology Business Partnership (EUM-BIO), a Business Match Making project co-funded by the Asia Invest II Programme of the European Commission (EC) on 24th - 26th October 2007 at Matrade Exhibition & Convention Centre (MECC), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Business Match-Making Event (25th – 26th October 2007) aims to establish business and technology co-operation by arranging one-on-one business meetings between biotech companies as well as research institutions (inclusive of universities) from the European Union (EU) and Asia/Malaysia to formalise long-term business partnership such as technology licensing, R&D, joint venture, import-export trade of biotech products, contract manufacturing/research, and venture capital investments.

For details of the event email: info@eumbio.org; carmen@eumbio.org or visit their website at:  http://www.eumbio.org/.

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The 13th European Congress on Biotechnology (ECB) will be held in Barcelona, Spain on Sept. 16 -19, 2007. Organized by and for Europe's biotechnologists and biotech stakeholders, the ECB is the longest running international and multidisciplinary biotechnology congress in Europe. It brings together Europe and the world's best biotechnologists to present and discuss cutting-edge science in all the disciplines of biotechnology. Details can be accessed at: http://www.ecb13.eu/.

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The third edition of a Biannual International Scientific Conference on Coexistence between GM and non-GM Agricultural Supply Chains (GMCC-07) will take place in Seville, Spain on November 20-21, 2007. GMCC-07 will gather the multidisciplinary scientific community involved in researching how agricultural supply chains can adapt to novel regulatory and market-driven coexistence requirements worldwide. GMCC-07 will also serve policy makers to access the latest scientific results and identify future research needs with policy relevance. GMCC-07 will present the latest research in agronomic, biological and socio-economic sciences taking place worldwide to support feasible coexistence strategies between GM and non-GM agricultural supply chains. 

See information on this Conference at: http://gmcc-07.intbase.com/ The Conference is being organized by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre – Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS). 

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From The BICs

The Cotton Research Institute of Egypt, in collaboration with the Biotechnology Information Center of Egypt (EBIC), arranged a field visit to the Bt cotton trial in Sakha experimental station in Delta. Participants included members of the National Biosafety Committee, cotton breeders, entomologists and representatives from the private sector. Prof. Monir Gad, director of the Cotton Research Institute, explained that the “project started in 2000 by cross breeding the Giza selected elite varieties of cotton with the BollGard II variety harboring the Bt genes”. The cross breeding selection has lead to the development of Egyptian cotton varieties with Bt genes. “We are currently testing the morphology of selected plants and comparing it to the Egyptian parent's characters, and analyzing their ability to resist cotton leaf worm and bollworms”, added Prof. Gad.  

Institutions involved in the evaluation of the new Bt Giza varieties are the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute (AGERI), the Cotton Research Institute, and the Plant Protection Institute. Dr. Hassan Dahey from the Plant Protection Institute explained that "the new Bt cotton varieties show from 95 to 100% protection against cotton leaf worm infestation while it is almost 100% protection toward the bollworms".   There are three field trials of the new Giza Bt varieties in Egypt this season, in a total of 8.5 Feddan (8.9 acres). The field trials have been designed and are carried out under the supervision of the National Biosafety Committee.  

For more information please contact Prof. Monir Gad at: mounirgad@hotmail.com or Dr. Ismail AbdelHamid, EBIC director, at: ismail@egypt-bic.com.

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